The end of Carlisle’s Jacobites

archibald primrose.jpgIn the aftermath of the 1745 uprising many Jacobite prisoners found themselves in Carlisle once more. Legend tells that “the Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond” was composed by a man destined for the gallows at this time.  The castle cells were so full that prisoners were kept in the Cathedral; troops were billeted. Court officials arrived. Friends and families arrived to try and save the lives of their loved ones. There were so many prisoners that it was decided that it was an impossible task to try them all. The Jacobites were made to draw lots. Nineteen out of twenty men were to be transported to the colonies. The twentieth man was to be put on trial for treason which usually meant execution. A Special Commission of Goal Delivery was held. The Grand Jury convened in August 1746 with the trials beginning on Tuesday, 9th September the same year. To have worn the white cockade was enough to confirm a man’s guilt.

One hundred and thirty people were taken forward for trial. Two men were too sick to stand trial and one man, Lord Mordington, pleaded his peerage so could not legally be tried by the judges in Carlisle as they were not his equals. Of the remaining defendants forty-two pleaded guilty and a further forty-nine were found guilty at their trials including Sir Archibald Primrose, the nephew of the Earl of Rosebery. Thirty-three of the convicted Jacobites were executed while one man died in prison.

Sir Archibald Primrose  of Dunipace having first been imprisoned in Aberdeen was moved to Carlisle for trial and went to his death on Harraby Hill leaving only a letter for his sister in Edinburgh which he handed over to a friend at the foot of the scaffold.  In it he assured her that he was meeting his death as a Christian. He had hoped for a pardon having pleaded guilty and thrown himself on the mercy of the court believing that this was the course that would preserve his life. No messenger arrived in time to save him. There is a story that reprieve arrived half an hour after Sir Archibald’s execution. He is buried in St Cuthbert’s Churchyard along with many of the other executed Jacobites in an unmarked grave. Mourners at the funerals of the executed men would not recognize the St Cuthbert’s Church today as the current building was erected in 1779. Primrose’s family must have been horrified by his decision to join with the Jacobites, although it would have to be said that keeping track of the Primrose family’s loyalties isn’t always straight forward.  They’d shifted from loyalty to James II to William of Orange and risen through Scottish society by telling tales on Jacobites. Primrose’s near ancestor  was a commissioner for the 1707 Act of Union – an event that didn’t go down terribly well in Scotland at the time – having risen to the rank of earl on 1703 on the strength of his political affiliations – so quite why our Archibald had opted to affiliate himself to his princeliness is a matter for some speculation and one which he only hints at in his final letter.

Archibald’s letter reveals the extent to which Hanoverian prosecutors were determined to make an example of the Jacobites. He says that William Gray one of his prosecutors “suborned witnesses” and “threatened some.”  He went on to say that one man was to be hanged alongside him who had been offered his life on the proviso that he incriminate Primrose.  The man had refused:

I have endeavoured to take some small time, from a much more immediate concern, to offer you a few lines, and to let you know that this day I am to suffer, I think,
for my religion, my prince, and my country. For each of these I wish I had a thousand lives to spend. The shortness of the intimation will not allow me much time to write to you so fully in my vindication for what I did that I know concerns you. But I heartily repent of the bad advice I got even from men of judgment and sense. And what I did by their advice in my own opinion was no more than acknowledging I bore arms
against the present government, for my lawful, undoubted prince, my religion, and country; and I thought by my plea to procure some time longer life only to do service to my poor family, not doubting but yet in a short time that glorious cause will succeed, which God of His infinite mercy grant.

I repent most heartily for what I did, and I merit this death as my punishment, and I trust in the Almighty for mercy for my poor soul. As I am very soon to leave this world, I pray God to forgive all my enemies, particularly Mr. Gray, he who did me all the injury he could by suborning witnesses, and threatening some which was my terror. Particularly there is one poor man is to suffer with me that had an offer of his life tobe an evidence against me, which he rejccted.

Much more I could say, but as my time is short, I now bid my last adieu to my dear mother and you, my dear sister, and I intreat you’ll be kind to my dear wife and children; and may all the blessings of Heaven attend you all. Live together comfortably and you may expect God’s favour. My grateful acknowledgments for all your favours done and designed.

Remember me kindly to my Lady Caithness, Sauchie, and his sisters, and all my friends and acquaintances. May the Almighty grant you all happiness here, and eternal bliss hereafter, to which bliss, I trust, in His mcrcy soon to retire; and am for ever, dear sistcr, your affectionate brothcr, A.P.
PS:–My blessing for your dear boy, my son. 

Transcript of letter from The Lyon in Mourning which may be accessed from

Twenty Guineas and the usual hangman’s prerequisites of clothes and personal belongings convinced William Stout of Hexham that he was the man to execute the Jacobites for their treason. It was not a pleasant job. Thirty-three men had to be hung, cut down, revived, cut open and disemboweled. The executioner was supposed to be sufficiently adept at knotting off vital tubes and arteries so that the dying man could see their bowels being burned in front of them. The last step in the process was to chop the condemned man’s head off and put an end to any lingering misery.

The first nine rebels were hung on Harraby Hill on Saturday 18th October 1746 amongst their number was the gallant highlander who’d presented his white cockade to a new born baby at Rose Castle as a guarantee of safety less than a year previously.  Executions continued throughout October in Brampton and Penrith and concluded on Saturday 15th November with a final batch of condemned men being executed on Harraby Hill.

An entry in the Carlisle Patriot of 10 October 1829 recalls the memories of John Graham who had “gone upon Harraby Hill to witness the melancholy ceremony.” In the years that followed he came into the ownership of the land where the gallows had once stood and it was he who unearthed its remains and the pile of ash that burned the entrails of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s men.

Executed on Saturday 18 October 1746 at Harraby Hill

James Brand

Francis Buchanan

Hugh Cameron

Thomas Coppoch (the so-called Jacobite Bishop of Carlisle)

John Henderson

Donald Macdonald of Teirnardreish

Donald Macdonald of Kinloch Moidart

John Macnaughton


Executed on Saturday, 15 November 1746 at Harraby Hill

Molineaux Eaton

Charles Gordon

Thomas Hayes

Patrick Keir

Barnambus Matthew

James Mitchell

Patrick Murray

Sir Archibald Primrose

Robert Reid

Alexander Stevenson

John Wallace


Hickey, Julia (2014) High Road to Harraby Hill.  Carlisle:Bookcase


22 thoughts on “The end of Carlisle’s Jacobites

  1. Indeed the Gordon clan is part of my family history. James Gordon of Kilbraith Lord of Orkney my uncle now long gone in earth is he. Only claim to Scottish legends for me but his man died in Carlisle whilst we repaired to here now I sit. I would never have risked our ownership of Kennilworth just for Charlies smile.But they seemed to think that anything was better than a German market mayor as our King. Maybe they had a point. So your name is Hickey now found Julia Hickey of Carlisle. The missing Roman fountains more concern to me than the murders of protestors to the Electrate of Hanover invited by Parliament to be our lawful King.They must have been Barking mad as Electrate is not Prince nor is it Mayor it means head of markets under Crown rights. George must have been amazed he had risen to such heights and his fat bastard of a son delighted he could be a Duke over night. One massive mistake by our parliament of fools. All the way up to this Queen today.Scots will never forget nor forgive nor will I. My tiles came from Tudor times really by Edward 111 gave us more than cousin Elizabeth did.
    I stand on my estate bridge peering down at carp fish and counting them like sheep into the vast expanse of home park lake. Here like Norman Briton one rules that land as long ago Sir Roger Parr came to build a castle after that last bash in 1715 at the house of Derwentwater he saw ahead and warned the Duke but nothing stopped him reaching Bolton and a drink in the pub had him on the gallow. Roger married well and they escaped here for two years but went to America soon after. Lady Derwentwater took her diamonds and shipped to France before the German British troops arrived to sack and burn her house down. So I say to you dear lovely Julia are kings worth anything. Are we subjects to kneel at any son of a bitches feet? Not my way dear shoot the bastards who live off us and take our civil list as living expense for being connected to traitors to England and her peoples who are taxed hard to pay for political scumbags and scoundrels whom think themselves better than us.
    Cromwell was right we need empires of trade not Kings which as Defoe said are but empty things. War is the preserve of those who act as Kings. Title I am but all of my family and long long before had it that we represent the public wishes to lead and not lead to keep the peace of God and to act as witness to his desires. We are all his children none of us are different all play just a part in the trail set by he whom made us all blessed with free will so we are responsible for our own thoughts and actions. The test is what life really is I see. Pass and heaven is yours. Fail you are here again until you get it right. Cromwell we fought hard against in the company of that man of blood we now see as guilty of treason against his own people. My mothers family Colonels in Royal arms saw to the massive mistake but far far too late and France and debts faced us. Too many times have we as a family fought for King and country when we should have fought only for peace. That is why now I see it clear peace is King not man

  2. Enjoyed reading that Donald MacDonnel of Tir-na-Dris (House of the Briars) is a relation of mine.Major Donald MacDonell was in the Keppoch branch of Donald and his cousin Alasdair Colla was on the princes war council. He is responsible for the first action of the ’45 at High Bridge (now collapsed) with a few remnants. After killing a couple of red coats with 13 jacobites initially engaging 90 he captured the white stead from Captain Scott.Captain Scott would brutally go onto enact revenge at culloden with no quarters given.
    Donald MacDonell was denied a war speech he was hung drawn and quartered with entrails burnt. His skull was spiked on the gates of Carlisle and remained there for a few years. Soldiers passing the gate would salute the skull.

    • I didn’t know the last story regarding the skull – thank you very much – its always good to find out something new and to fill in on historical family relationships; which can be something of a minefield.

      • Do we have any idea which gate this was on Julia? I guess they have all been taken down but this would be of interest to me as I commemorate these type of events in history.

  3. I am trying to trace a story about a doctor being acquitted after the trial of the rebel prisoners in Carlisle. According to the story, the doctor was acquitted on account of the fact that he treated wounded men from either side. Can anyone help?

  4. Loch Lomond was written by a Jacobite Lady, Lady Elphinstone, or Nairn. It was about a Jacobite soldier about to be hung in Carlisle, whilst his brother escaped.

    There is an old Celtic Belief, that when a man dies in a foreign land his soul returns by the low road. He returned by the low road and his brother took the high road.

  5. Is there any more information about the Bishop of Carlisle, Thomas Coppock. I have heard many times that I am a descendant.

  6. Major Donald Macdonald of Tirnadrish (as it is now spelled) was taken prisoner before the Jacobite army entered England. Thus, according to the Act of Union, he should have been tried in Scotland under the Scottish legal system. As he was not lawfully killed, therefore, he was, in effect, murdered by the Westminster government. The same may well apply to some of the others. Walpole was made aware by Scottish Hanoverian chiefs before the rising that several of the main Jacobite chiefs were not enthusiastic about a rising, but felt honour bound to adhere to personal oaths of allegiance they had given years earlier to the Stuart king, which oaths also bound their clansmen. They advised him to secure the release of these chiefs from their oaths, just as one or two Hanoverian chiefs had already done. Walpole ignored them, so triggering a conflict which could have been avoided. Thus Walpole was despised by both sides in Scotland, which is probably why he in turn did not trust Scottish Hanoverians to process any prisoners. I visited Harraby Hill a couple of days ago to pay my respects and the few locals I spoke to were taken aback at how the history of the hilltop had been hidden from them.

  7. I never knew this part or why my 6th great grandfather was transported – The Jacobites were made to draw lots. Nineteen out of twenty men were to be transported to the colonies. Daniel Duff from Perthshire, Occupation Labourer. Regiment: John Roy Stewart (Edinburg) Rank: Other Ranks. Prisoner No 765. Prisoner at Carlisle, Lincoln Castle. Aged 26 years, 5’7”, cross made, strong, healthy. Captured at Carlisle on 30 DEC 1746 and imprisoned at Carlisle and Lincoln Castle. Transported to Antigua, 8 May 1747. On list of prisoners aboard the “Veteran”. Transported on Veteran, ships master, John Ricky. Left Liverpool on 5 May 1747 for the Leeward Islands which was taken near Antigua, 28 June 1747 by the “Diamond’ Privateer, Paul Marsale, Commander and carried into Martinique on 30 June 1747. All prisoners aboard were released.

  8. Hi
    I am looking for the outcome of John Duthie from Lord Ogily’s regiment who was captured at Carlisle
    was he one of the ones executed?
    John Duthie (1st) Weaver, Hirdhill, Kirriemuir
    it states taken at Carlisle. Died?
    Can anyone help?
    He is my 7 x Great Grandfathers cousin, who is the other John Duthie in Lord Ogilvy’s ..


    Alistair Duthie

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